LGBT Advocates Say State Budget for Homeless Youth Falls Short

Since state funding to programs for runaway and homeless youth was drastically cut in last year’s budget, advocates have fought to restore the funding. This year’s allocation saw a slight uptick, but the increase fell far short of the restoration they had hoped for, reported Gay City News.

State funding for homeless youth (graphic by Jennifer Cheng/Voices of NY based on data cited by Gay City News)

In the budget approved last April, as part of the Cuomo administration’s effort to close a $10 billion deficit, the RHY budget line funding efforts to house homeless youth was cut in half — from $4.7 million to roughly $2.6 million.

A broad coalition of advocates who came together under the name Campaign for Youth Shelter had pressed to restore the funding level from two years ago and also win support from the state and city to increase spending for homeless youth housing in the five boroughs by $3 million annually until the unmet need for beds is satisfied.

Instead, when the new budget was finalized at the end of March, advocates had won only a $215,000 increase over last year’s funding level.

The article provided data on the chasm between the number of homeless youths in New York City and the amount of available beds.

A 2007 census of homeless youth in New York City conducted by the Empire State Coalition found that, on average, about 3,800 homeless youths, 24 and younger, are on the streets on any given night. An estimated 35-40 percent of that total identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning — a figure consistent with data uncovered in other cities across the nation.

Currently, there are only about 250 beds funded by state and city money in the five boroughs, plus another 100 or so paid for from other sources. The city Department of Youth and Community Development estimates that each bed costs between $35,000 and $42,000 a year to maintain.

Activists made their frustrations with the budget known.

George Hermann, a member of the Koleinu/ Social Justice Group at Congregation Beit Simchat Torah (CBST), noting that he and other advocates discussed the needs of homeless queer youth with senior Cuomo administration officials just days before the governor’s address, said, “All I can conclude is that the governor does not care. He cannot say he was unaware.”

About two dozen activists affiliated with Queer Rising demonstrated outside Cuomo’s Midtown office hours after the budget speech, with four arrested for blocking an exit from the building.

Aside from the funding flap over homeless youth, LGBT advocates did get some good news, said Lynn Faria, the interim executive director of the Empire State Pride Agenda, one of the LGBT groups behind the Campaign for Youth Shelter:

Funding for the state LGBT Health and Human Services Network, a group of roughly 50 non-profit organizations statewide that work primarily on issues separate from AIDS, remained level at $5.26 million.

“We are heartened to see that the support our community relies on is intact,” Faria said in a written statement.

She noted that, for the first time, the state will now fund the collection of data about the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression of Medicaid recipients. There is very little hard data on the health care needs and experience of LGBT people, in New York or nationwide, so the information collected should help the Pride Agenda and other groups more effectively lobby for improved services, Faria said.

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